There were college football games this past weekend at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Sun Trust Park. Nearly two years ago Prairie State Pigskin pondered if such a venture could happen for the Illinois FCS teams.
Last week Prairie State Pigskin contacted Dan Polvere, special events consultant for the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA), who helped to coordinate the 2016 meeting between Northern Illinois and Toledo at U.S. Cellular Field (now Guaranteed Rate Field). We wanted to know if such a game was in the mix for the near future.
"There is still interest in having another football game at Guaranteed Rate Field...but not in 2019. We transformed the field into a golf course in October and may do it again next year," Polvere replied via e-mail.
While it seems unlikely that such a game will transpire, we here at Prairie State Pigskin subscribe the power of positive thinking. So indulge us now as we share our dream for better days ahead.
Close your eyes and open your other senses . . .
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and college football fans, welcome to Guaranteed Rate Field, home of your Chicago White Sox," booms the embracing voice of Gene Honda over the public address system, "today's double-header features the Eastern Illinois Panthers versus the Illinois State Redbirds followed by the Southern Illinois Salukis against the Western Illinois Leathernecks."
Tickets are reasonably priced, allowing for a terrific experience in early November sunshine. The tailgates are filled with fans and alumni wearing blue, red, maroon and purple in support of their teams. The smoky haze fills the air around the ballpark as grills sizzle and beverages (warm and cold) flow. Commemorative souvenirs are being hawked and worn everywhere.
As fans enter the gates, they drop nonperishable items into bins labeled for each school. These donations will find their way to area food banks and the university with the largest number of donations will be recognized on the JumboTron at halftime of the second game.
University officials will be on hand to answer questions and enrollment applications will be passed out. Alumni associations will sign up new members and issue pom-poms in the colors of their schools.
Inside, Roger Bossard and his grounds crew have outdone themselves; the field is in immaculate condition and will remain solid through eight quarters of action.
"It's Eastern and ISU in their annual battle for the Mid-America Classic trophy in the 11 a.m. game and Southern and Western kicking off at 3 p.m.," Jason Benetti tells viewers over NBC Sports Chicago and ESPN3. "For more, let's go down to our sideline reporter Kelly Burke."
Smiling into the camera, Burke reports, "Halftime will be a bit longer than usual, allowing for each school's marching band to perform. It's a beautiful day for football here on the South Side. Back up to you, Jason."
"Thanks, Kelly. These two teams first met in 1901, making it the oldest rivalry in the state of Illinois," Benetti shares. "Back in that first meeting it took the Illinois State team six hours to make the drive from Normal to Charleston.
"As for our nightcap, Southern and Western will renew a rivalry that dates back to 1933 . . . here comes the color guard.
"We're just about ready for the national anthem, followed by the ceremonial coin toss and then of course, kickoff . . . "